Monday, November 30, 2009

The Last Word on Tennis for 2009

The sound of soles rapidly shuffling into position on the spotlight's surface of the O2 arena has now ceased. The dazzling blue glow has been dimmed for the last time, and a worthy winner has emerged from the group of eight.

London's O2 arena hosted a fantastic ATP Masters year-ending tournament which saw the top five players fall at various hurdles. Nikolay Davydenko outlasted them all to lift the trophy and ascend to sixth in the world rankings, jumping past absentee Andy Roddick.

Robin Soderling's run to the semi-finals saw him finish eighth in the rankings, a career high for the much-improved Swede. Another player who has come on leaps and bounds is finalist Juan Martin Del Potro. It was only January this year when he was given one of the biggest thrashings at the Australian Open by Roger Federer, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0. He ran Federer close in a five-set loss at the semis of the French before triumphing over the world number one to win his first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows.

Rafael Nadal, plagued by numerous injuries and inconsistent form, finished the year on his biggest ever low, losing his last four matches.

Roger Federer has now been world number one for 258 weeks, 2 weeks shy of Pete Sampras' record of 260 weeks at the very top ranking. By Christmas Federer will be the outright leader. The Swiss ace won his first French Open crown, which equalled Pete Sampras' Grand Slam record and also completed his career Grand Slam. Then a month later at Wimbledon he overcame Andy Roddick in an epic final to stand alone as the all-time greatest player in history with 15 Grand Slam titles. He married long time girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec before welcoming twin daughters into his life. It has been a historic year for Roger Federer.

Finally, tennis will be losing two of its more famous players in Marat Safin and Fabrice Santoro. We will for sure miss Safin's petulance and anger issues as much as his superb tennis, which we must confess was sadly only rarely seen.

The Australian Open is up next in January 2010 and Roger Federer will be as hungry as ever to claim the title he so agonisingly lost this year.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Djokovic and Murray are worthy losers

So far in this tournament, players have got exactly what they deserve. Federer and Soderling tied up their groups in the first two games with some great tennis. Del Potro and Davydenko fought back after opening defeats to claim semi-final spots. Nadal and Verdasco were off the pace and finished bottom of their groups. Verdasco however, was a tad unlucky, losing two of his matches on final-set tiebreaks. But he simply didn't have the shots when it really mattered, and the same can be said for an unrecognisable Nadal.

And then we come to the two clowns of tennis, Novak Joker-vic and Andy 'never-win-a-major' Murray. Murray's disrespectful comments about his match with Federer coupled with his ridiculous insistence that his career is not just about winning competitions, got their just desserts - a beating from Rog followed by elimination from the competition. He couldn't have asked for more.

Novak Joker-vic was no better, but this time the joke was well and truly on him. His kamikaze against Soderling in a supposed effort to save his energy for the Nadal match, dramatically backfired. Little did he know that giving up so easily took matters out of his own hands. Davydenko duly beat Soderling in his final match, dumping Joker-vic out of the tournament. And that's exactly what he deserves for causing such embarrassment to Soderling, to himself, and to the tournament.

Good riddance to Murray and Joker-vic. Tennis doesn't need you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Andy 'dipstick' Murray out of ATP Masters London

Andy 'never-win-a-major' Murray must be absolutely delighted. What greater reason to rejoice than being rewarded with everything he ever wanted? It was he who mentioned that it's not about always winning competitions, but merely enjoying victory in epic clashes with the world's top players. Well, he had one of those last night with Fernando Verdasco, and this morning he finds himself out of the tournament at the Round Robin stage. Well done, Andy. Just perfect.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dinosaur Roar!

This morning we went to the Yayasan Pahang building to see the dinosaur exhibition. It cost us RM12 and Lauren got in free, although once we entered I wondered how the fees could be so high. It was a very small show with limited activities and we only spent about 45 minutes there. That was probably because Lauren was scared of all the loud dinosaur noises resonating around the room.

We did take some fun pictures which we were able to send to my email address, which are included below. The dinosaur models were very realistic, mobile and created quite a din!

I struggle to imagine how my tuition students managed to spend 6 hours there though!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Super Swiss Swats Staggering Scot

Early this morning Roger Federer slew Andy Murray in the 2nd Round Robin match at the ATP Tour London Masters. The score read 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 to Federer.

The O2 arena, bathed in a mesmerizing sea of blue lighting, looked stunning as Andy Murray and Roger Federer entered the spotlight on Centre Court.

Murray took the opening set with the decisive break of serve coming in the 6th game, despite having some troubles with his serve. Federer looked unfazed and began to find his rhythm in the second set, hitting more winners as Murray's double fault tally increased. The Swiss broke in the 6th game as he built some much-needed momentum. Murray's shot-making was off and his serve was crumbling.

Federer took the set 6-3 and his momentum continued as he swatted the British 'hope' aside 6-1 in the final set. I was overjoyed to see Federer playing at his fluent best again and perhaps now he has just become the favourite to win in London, although Djokovic looks like he could run him close.

Meanwhile, same old Murray doesn't have a hope as usual and now he can eat his ill-thought-out words describing his 6-3 head-to-head record versus Roger and how he was planning to just 'get this one out the way.' How dare he talk like that about a match against the greatest player the planet has ever seen!

I doubt after last night's beating he'll ever speak so casually about Federer again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

ATP Tour World Finals

The first two matches have been played in the O2 Arena in London. Andy Murray firstly defeated struggling Del Potro 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 before Roger Federer launched a great comeback to down Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 7-5, 6-0.

World number one Roger Federer was looking in trouble when he was a set down and a game away from a tiebreak, but he decisively broke Verdasco in the 12th game of the 2nd and then walked through the decider 6-0. Looking as though he is possibly running out of steam at the end of the season, this should sound a warning to his rivals that he's not finished yet and can still turn out a love set when he's in the mood.

Meanwhile, Andy 'can't-win-a-major' Murray never will. Reflecting on last year's semi-final defeat to Davydenko, he maintained he had no regrets about going all out to beat Roger Federer in a dead rubber for him in the final group stage match. He was too tired the next day and as a result, lost. But he's well used to that now isn't he?

"I'd do the same thing again," he remarked, about doing everything to beat Federer in a pointless match at the expense of winning the competition. Stupidity.

"Unfortunately it didn't go well for me the next day but winning against Federer six times and losing three times, I can keep that with me for my career," said the unkempt Scot. Just for the record, Andy-dipstick-Murray, head-to-head records count for nothing and are pretty useless statistics in determining greatness. Can you name the head-to-head record between Borg and McEnroe? How about Sampras and Agassi? No. The only thing that matters is Grand Slam titles.

And Murray finishes it off with the most ridiculous quote I've ever heard. Ok, brace yourself, here it comes: "It's not always just about winning tournaments all the time, sometimes it's nice to beat the big players in epic matches and unfortunately sometimes that takes it out of you a little bit."

Sorry to be the one to break it to you Andy, but actually it IS about winning tournaments all the time, in particular, Grand Slam tournaments. It will come as no surprise that Murray's victories over Federer have come in small competitions that are pretty meaningless to a multiple Grand Slam champion, but absolutely vital to players who don't have a prayer in bigger events. Most notably, Federer gave Murray a good trashing in the US Open final of 2008. The final score read 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 on that occasion.

And maybe, just maybe, he has finally realised he is not future champion material in admitting that 'it's nice to beat the big players.'

It will be an interesting match between these two players from opposite ends of the tennis greatness spectrum. I wouldn't be surprised if Murray won. But we all know that Federer is a winning machine. He selects the events that are most important - Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows - and is always meticulously prepared to win when it matters.

And that's the difference between Federer and Murray. That's what makes one a memorable champion and the other a forgotten also-ran - the Scot wins when the stakes are low. Federer wins when it really matters.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Monitor Lizard Encounter

It's been a number of months since I went monitor lizard hunting around the back alleys and drains of Bukit Sekilau. Armed with camera and tip-toeing with hushed steps I spotted many a lizard in the hot sun. Since then however, the drains have become littered with all sorts of rubbish and the year has now entered the annual rainy season, making it difficult to observe any sightings of these intriguing creatures.

Returning home from a photography session somewhere in the back roads behind the petrol station, I came across a spot of good luck as I caught this specimen walking the drain:

A medium-sized lizard, yet it was the second biggest one I had seen. I was privileged to see a huge lizard about a year ago slowly trudging his way down a side road, but I was unfortunate not to have my camera on me! This monitor lizard however, hung around for me to take a number of pictures and a video.

These scavengers are rarely seen amongst people and have a network of residences underground, generally travelling in the numerous drains around Bukit Sekilau.

They have beautiful, intricate patterns on their skin. I love the design on their front legs, as in the picture above.

He finally made a dash for it as I got too close for comfort, clumsily crossing the little stream of water before hastily galloping, arms and legs splaying, back up the drain until I followed him no more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ATP Tour Finals

The tennis tour finals is almost upon us, and the draw has thrown up some tantalizing matches in the group stage. World number one Roger Federer has been paired with Andy 'can't-win-a-major' Murray, Argentine scum-bag Del Potro, and Fernando Verdasco.

In the other group meanwhile, Rafael Nadal is matched up with three players who have all recently beaten him. His rivalry with Swede Soderling continues after he entered through the backdoor due to Roddick's injury. The Spanish bull will also face Novak Djokovic, who gave him a good stuffing last week, and Nikolay Davydenko (Mr. Consistency) who beat him well a few weeks ago.

It all starts on Sunday November 22nd, 2009 and I can't wait. In the back of my mind, I really worry for Rog as he just seems a bit off the pace at the moment, but I am reminded that Rog is a winner through and through, he wants Grand Slams and is not really bothered about inferior tournaments - those are for Andy 'can't-win-a-major' Murray. But on the flipside, I'm hopeful that Federer's period of rest will stand him in good stead and that he will produce his best tennis when it really matters.

The end of year finals is still a good tournament to win, but it doesn't really signify anything special nor accurately predict the outcome of the upcoming year. (Just take Murray's victory in last year's Shanghai finals and contrast that with his performance in 2009)

Anyway, whatever competition he is playing in, I want him to win. COME ON ROG!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Geographic Basics

We live in a beautiful, stunning and amazing world. We are surrounded by awesome nature, skilled architecture, fascinating landscapes and billions of people. If the Earth deviated just one-eighth of an inch closer to the Sun in its orbit, we would heat up and burn to death. If it deviated just one-eighth of an inch away from the Sun in its orbit, we would soon freeze to death. The positioning of our planet in itself emphasizes the hand of a Supreme Creator.

Yet I wonder how much we know of our planet? Of the lands and the seas, countries, continents, cities, landmarks? I am appalled at how little Malaysian children know concerning their home planet, and how much they even care. Geography is a subject of vital importance and one that is extremely rewarding.

I wonder how many questions you would be able to answer from the the following set, as we go back to Geography Basics:

1. Name the 7 continents of the world.

2. Name 10 of America's states.

3. Name 5 countries which border China.

4. Name 10 European countries and their capital cities.

5. Name 10 African countries.

6. Name 5 national islands.

7. Name 3 countries on the equator.

8. On which continent would you find:
     - Bolivia
     - Eritrea
     - Syria
     - New Zealand
     - Switzerland
     - Canada

9. In which country would you find:
     - Rio De Janeiro
     - Athens
     - Melbourne
     - Kiev
     - Madrid
     - Johannesburg

10. Name the capital cities of:
     - Philippines
     - Taiwan
     - Japan
     - North Korea
     - Indonesia
     - India
     - Sri Lanka
     - Thailand

So how did you do? Is your geography up to scratch? Let me know, I'd be pleased to hear your feedback!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Roger Federer and Credit Suisse

The great Roger Federer has teamed up with Credit Suisse in a lucrative, long-term partnership recently. Follow the link below to learn more of Federer's desire to be the best.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lauren's Latest Poses

So here is a collection of images of Lauren, which I know my mother has been waiting patiently for! Prepare your eyes for the coolest baby in the Blogosphere...

At 22 months old, Lauren is remarkably clever, speaking the occasional full sentence, and doing all the things a naughty baby does. And she loves the National Geographic magazine just like her daddy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nessun Dorma

Giacomo Puccini began working on the opera 'Turandot' in 1920. The opera's final duet was all but finished in 1924 when he was tragically struck with throat cancer. Travelling to Belgium to see a specialist, he died as a result of the surgery and never got to hear his opera including the finale, 'Nessun Dorma'. The song became famous when Luciano Pavarotti belted it out during the World Cup in Italy in 1990 as the tournament's theme song. Pavarotti's performance of the 'Nessun Dorma' is now further immortalized by the great tenor's sudden demise on September 6th, 2007.

Nessun Dorma, meaning 'Nobody shall sleep', is one of the most difficult songs to sing as it contains two of the highest notes in the tenor range - B4 followed by A4. This fantastic song is made to sound ludicrously easy by Maestro Pavarotti, the man from Modena. His unmistakable face is the facade to an even greater unmistakable voice, a distinctly unique and thrilling tone that has delighted millions with absolute awe and wonderment.

Those who blindly mumble lyrics sung by popular artists who barely know how to sing without the help of machinery, really can't appreciate genuine talent. The racket of today's pop songs is an awful (and ever-increasingly, immoral) show designed to lower standards of morality and virtue. I need mention just the disgusting 'Pussycat Dolls' or 'Lady Gaga' and you soon get what I mean.

Luciano Pavarotti's rendition of Nessun Dorma is real music, uplifting, touching, spiritual, classical, timeless. As you follow the link to observe his 1994 performance in Los Angeles, you will feel the ultimate passion in his voice, on his face, in the applause of the crowd.

This is the real music. The real singing. Nothing else matches up.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Miracle

Over at the west quarter of the sky, a dark, deep blue expanse lingered. But signs of dawn were materializing across the heavens towards where the Sun would make its first appearance around an hour later. A collection of stars yet dazzled brightly in the 6:30am sky. Venus was clearly visible too, larger and more circular than its twinkling neighbours. A half moon hung in the canopy directly above, a soft glow emanating exactly around its circumference.

Panning across the morning panorama was like being in two places at once. The dark of night on the right, smoothing out into the light blue tinged with yellows, oranges and pinks signifying the new dawn, on the left.

One cannot fully appreciate a sunrise until one has waited through the dark.

The miracle of observing the mechanisms of night transforming into day with ones own eyes is definitely the best way to start a day.

The flowers wait silently each night, through long, dark hours, to eventually suck up and soak in the first, purest shafts of sunlight at daybreak. I envisioned them taking a long, deep breath and slowly releasing, being energised and nourished by the power of the Sun.

If being at one with nature is experiencing what nature experiences, then I've participated gladly this morning. I know how the flowers feel. Waiting through the dark to catch the first glimpse of light is a miracle of the ages, just as powerful, just as rewarding today, as ever.

Behold the delicate intricacies of this unusually stunning flower.

*If one thinks the day of miracles is over, one must simply arise a little earlier*

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chelsea vs Man. Utd

It's the big one today - table-topping Chelsea versus 3-time champions Man. Utd. Chelsea are in mean form at home whilst the Red Devils have lost twice on their travels and are not at their best.

I worry for ManU in this one simply because of late they haven't performed well against the other members of the top four. However, against Chelsea they have done alright, beating them 3-0 at Old Trafford last season and getting a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

I don't think it's because of the loss of Ronaldo that ManU seem a little laboured at the moment. They're just having a slow start and can only get better as they click into gear. They will miss the calming presence of Rio Ferdinand at the back, but Jonny Evans has proved to be a more than suitable replacement. With Rooney and Berbatov restored to the starting line-up, they will give Chelsea a tough test.

Darren Fletcher will be a vital figure in midfield for Alex Ferguson's men. He will look to nullify the threat of Lampard and Ballack, thereby cutting off the supply to Drogba and Anelka. Likewise Ballack and Lampard will look to take advantage of a shaky midfield the same way Liverpool did a fortnight ago. The midfield battle will be the key area.

Dare I predict a result against Man. Utd? I'm afraid so. I don't want to be over-confident on this one, but if this fixture was a few months later I would go for a ManU win or at least a draw. However, it is more likely that Chelsea will take this match 2-1, but for once in my life I would love to be wrong!

Whatever happens tonight, it should be a fierce fight between England's best two teams. And the old dog Fergie may just have a trick or two up his sleeve for this one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dengue Fever

Yesterday a couple of health officials dropped by to check for any standing water in the house as a result of somebody close by contracting Dengue Fever. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, making Dengue a serious threat.

In the evening, a bunch of men came by and spent around half an hour 'fogging' the entire apartment block and surrounding houses. They blasted repellent in all of the drains, sent plumes of it up stairwells, and flooded houses, gardens and the entire street with these smelly clouds of smoke. They certainly know how to attract an audience!

Wafts of smoke even filtered through the outline of our firmly bolted front door. They wore full face masks and used huge machine guns to take care of their business - a sight we would never behold in England!

"The Mosquito Exterminator"


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